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Riccardo Federici: A Day in the Life of one of Europe’s Greatest Comic Book Artists! (Part 2)

Italian illustrator Riccardo Federici gives us an in-depth look at what it means to be a comic book artist in Europe, talking “A Day in the Life”, “Art and Technique”, and more!

Art by Riccardo Federici: Cover for Marvel, Conan and Black Panther

Riccardo Federici is an Italian illustrator and comic book artist born in Rome. Federici was the first comic strip artist to be featured at the Roma Biennale (one of the biggest art shows in the world) alongside some of the world’s greatest contemporary painters and photographers. Federici has drawn for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, DC Vertigo, DC Collectables, Blizzard Entertainment, XM Studios and Editions Delcourt (Saria). Federici is also a painter, a sculptor, and occasionally, a professor.

Segment 2: The European Comic Scene

Art by Riccardo Federici: Work in progress for Saria #3, Editions Delcourt

What’s the comic scene in Italy/Europe like? What type of comic books are most popular there?

The European market is not all the same. Surely the most important, thriving and interesting one is the French/Belgian market. The Italian market is not very large and is a bit stationary. In any case, the US comics are very appreciated and known throughout Europe as well as all over the world.

You’ve worked on European comics as well as American comics, are there any major differences between the two?

Yes, there are differences. I have never worked for the Italian market but I can talk about the French and Belgian market. Generally, except for some cases, a French/ Belgian comic series lasts an average of 3 issues and each volume comes out annually (in some cases, even less). The comics of this market are generally hardback, double the size of the US and contain an average of 52 pages. These are the equivalent of so-called "graphic novels". Very often the designer does everything from pencils to color, even if sometimes the color is entrusted to someone else. The stories don't have superheroes as protagonists and often have a historical context, but there are also many fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, ironic and children's comics. There are many French series that have also been published in the USA. Furthermore, the deadlines are very different: the American market has very short deadlines because the type of market is very dynamic, large and competitive. I don't prefer one market or the other: they are different and each has its own needs.

What are your own favourite comic books to read?

I don't have any real preferences, I like a little bit of everything. However, I am inevitably conditioned by my work, therefore the comics I prefer are those graphically well done. Obviously, in comics there are many aspects to take into consideration but personally I think that the drawing, the color, the framing, the direction, and the storytelling of the sequences are very important. If not, we might as well read a book. Among the European graphic novels I could mention The Metabarons, drawn and colored by the great Juan Giménez .

Segment 3: Career

Art by Riccardo Federici: "The Witcher", illustration for Dark Horse

You initially went to college for Architecture, What made you decide to make the switch and go into comic book art instead? Trying to make it in the art world can be a difficult task, was this career switch a hard decision to make?

I started working in the world of comics almost by chance thanks to a dear friend of mine, who is a musician and who convinced me to dedicate myself professionally to art. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably be doing something else today. Stupidly, I did not give importance to what I found most natural to do: draw and paint.

What was it like being the first comic strip artist to have been exposed at the Roma Biennale (one of the biggest art shows in the world)? Was it exciting? Scary? Do you think having a comic artist exhibited at the Roma Biennale changed people’s perception of comic book art? What was the public reception like?

It was really exciting to exhibit at the Rome Biennale! I didn't really expect it, especially because I hadn't been doing this job for long! However I don't know if this event has contributed to improving the public's perception of comic art.

On a similar note, being a comic book artist takes just as much skill as being a traditional painter or photographer. So why do you think it took this long for a comic book artist to be featured alongside more traditional artists at the Roma Biennale?

I believe that comics are an artistic media just like many others. Unfortunately, it is perceived as a product aimed at a young audience and therefore belittled. In reality, those who make comics have the same characteristics as a sculptor, a painter, an architect or any other form of artist. It is the concept of art that is somewhat distorted. What is art? Who determines what art is and what it is not? Today, it seems that everyone is an artist, even those who play chess (ah no chess is a sport! AHAHAH). Even those who scribble on a piece of paper while talking on the phone, or scratch a tile with a nail. Personally I think that art is "creativity", but this must be followed by technical skills, knowledge, experience and a personal journey. Otherwise it's too easy and everyone can call himself an artist.

In your opinion, do you think comic books should be considered literature?

Comics are ALSO literature.

Panel: San Diego Comic Con 2017

You attended New York Comic Con, right? Do you go to fan conventions often? What’s your favourite part about them?

So far, I have only attended NYCC 2018 and 2019. I had planned to attend other conventions in 2020 and 2021 but due to the pandemic I had to cancel all appointments. Maybe in 2021 I will be able to participate in some conventions in the United States and Canada but I cannot confirm it for the moment. I fell in love with NYCC and it was great to meet all my fans, colleagues and the guys from the publishing houses I work with. The atmosphere is so friendly yet dynamic. I really like talking to the public and knowing that my work is appreciated. I just hope my spoken English will be a little better next time AHAHAH!

There are also similar fan conventions in Europe, right? Would you say fan culture in Europe is similar to North America?

There are a lot of comic conventions in Europe, some are small, some are big and more important. The two most relevant conventions in my opinion are the Angouléme Festival in France, and Lucca Comics and Games in Italy, then there are many comic festivals in France and Belgium almost every month and sometimes at the same time; they’re organized quite well by fans and sponsored by the town that hosts them. These are very nice and humanly rewarding events. The concept of “comic convention” in Europe is a little different from the American one, but not too dissimilar in terms of the biggest and most important events. It seems to me that in American conventions, there is a greater respect for artists’ work, both by fans and by professionals, but I cannot say for sure as I have only attended two conventions in the USA. Anyway, I can't complain: I've always been treated very well in both America and Europe.

Art by Riccardo Federici

You’re also a professor at some private art academies such as the Naples International Comics School and the Roman School of Comics, right? What do you teach there? What advice do you think is important to pass on to the upcoming generation of artists in classrooms?

I am not currently working in these two academies, as I had to concentrate on my work as an artist. I only have a few private students that I follow via skype. In any case, I was a teacher of French illustration and comics for the final year students.

My advice? Be curious and study! Don't look for fashionable shortcuts or “the easier way”. Solidify your foundation and be hungry for knowledge. Be humble and not presumptuous because you’ll never stop learning: for example, knowing all the muscles of the human body does not mean knowing the anatomy. First you need to know the bone structure and its biomechanical functioning, then there are the muscles and their mechanics etc ... A house is built starting from the foundations that give solidity and shape. If you have a teacher, listen to him! Some might say maybe I am not the best person to say this as I am totally self taught. I have always drawn and painted, but have never been lucky enough to have a teacher who could pass on his experience to me. It’s true that as a teenager I did art school, but in that time nothing was done and I didn’t learn anything. The art school, instead of enticing my artistic attitude, turned it off, and for many years I did not touch a pencil. Last important tip (in my opinion): Today there are many aspirants in the comics and illustration market. To emerge, you need to know how to make the difference. Keep this in mind!


Join us next week for our final segment: Riccardo talks Art and Technique!

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